Tel Aviv Gay Pride Festival Draws Thousands; One of Many Marches This Weekend

Thousands of people from around the world packed Israel’s streets of Tel Aviv for the city’s annual Gay Pride march, one of many festivals for gay rights taking place this weekend.

The festival is billed as the largest event of its kind in the deeply conservative Middle East.

Israeli police estimated that more than 100,000 people participated Friday with many coming from other countries.

The annual parade featured floats and dancers with this year’s theme being “Bisexuality Visibility.”

The festival is sponsored by the city of Tel Aviv, which has promoted gay tourism in recent years, becoming one of the world’s most gay-friendly travel destinations.

While Tel Aviv is seen as liberal and welcoming of gays, Jerusalem is seen as more conservative with the population’s views varying on gay rights. A gay pride parade there in 2015 ended in tragedy when an extremist ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed a 16-year-old girl to death.

Across the rest of the Middle East, gay and lesbian relationships are largely taboo.

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Gay pride festivals are taking place this weekend in dozens of cities around the world, including Los Angeles, Athens, Sydney and Rome.

A large-scale “Equality March” is planned for Sunday in Washington, with organizers saying they want to combat anti-LGBT rhetoric in the country.

Many more gay pride events are scheduled around the world later in June, the month gay pride is traditionally celebrated, chosen because of New York’s 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, which is regarded as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.

Next week, Shanghai, China, will host its ninth gay pride event, but without a parade that accompanies most events in other cities around the world. Organizers say they expect around 6,000 people to attend. For the 10th anniversary next year, they said, they hope to expand to other cities including Beijing.

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